How to make a pin cushion with Judith Dahmen

Monday 17th March 2014, 15.01



Judith Dahmen works in the financial sector and crunches numbers for a living, but her real passion lies in sewing and crafting. Her eye for detail and precision, reflected excellently in her sewing work, helps her create stunning quilts, cushions and bags which she shares on her blog Needles and Lemons - the name of which was suggested by a friend after Judith’s fondness for lemon tarts. We caught up with Judith to pick up a few of her photography tips and her easy-to-follow, pretty pincushion tutorial.

How to make a pincushion with Judith Dahmen


Tell us a little about your background and when you started to sew?

From an early age I knitted; my mother taught me how to knit and you could always find me working on a jumper. I could not – and still can’t – simply sit in front of the television or go on a long train journey without having some needlework in my hands.

Then, as a teenager, I got into sewing and for a while made my own clothes. I fancied becoming a fashion designer, however this was difficult to realize as I lived in very rural surroundings. I gave up making my clothes eventually, partly because I had a job and it was too time consuming but mostly because it sort of stressed me out. Knitting has always been more relaxing.

I grew up in Germany close to the borders of Belgium and Luxembourg and one summer I came to the UK for a holiday. and saw a quilt in a craft shop in St. Ives in Cornwall, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I couldn’t afford to buy it but decided there and then that I would one day make a quilt. Sadly it took me until 2010 to realise this plan. In April of that year, I went to the quilt exhibition at the V&A museum and took that opportunity to make my first quilt. Little did I know that this was going to turn into an obsession. I love everything about quilts; the buying and feeling of the fabric, the planning, the cutting, the sewing, and the quilting itself, I haven’t looked back since.

Being a member of the London Modern Quilt Guild, is this where you get a lot of your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from all over the place, and mostly from everyday life. This can be a tile pattern in the front yard of a house or in the tube station, a brick pattern on a wall to a modern painting, and of course some of the work from my fellow members of the London Modern Quilt Guilt. The Internet is also a great source of inspiration.

Photography is a great love of yours and you taught at last year’s Fat Quarterly sewing retreat, teaching everyone tips and tricks on how to take the best photograph. How did you find the experience and can you share anything with us today?

I love teaching and it was a particular pleasure to have had so many eager listeners at the retreat. Photography is very important to me and I am a stickler for a well composed and well shot image. The best tip I can give people who want to photograph their craft is to always do it during daylight hours, preferably outside but not in bright sun light. A light grey sky is a photographer’s friend! Oh and use a normal camera (SLR or point-and-shoot) and not a camera phone, as their lenses are not as good.

Do you have any favourite techniques when sewing projects, and what are your plans for future projects?

I don’t have any favourite techniques as such, but perhaps my favourite way of quilting is straight-line quilting and circular quilting.

I have many projects in the pipeline this year, and quite a few that involve Liberty’s fabric in fact! Issue 6, 7 and 8 of the new magazine ‘Love Patchwork and Quilting’ will have detailed tutorials on small to medium size projects with Liberty fabric. I have had a quilt in the magazine already and am planning a few more for this year.

Other than that I teach quilting in two fabric shops across London (Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead, and Tikki in Kew) and would like to increase this as I absolutely love it.


Liberty Print Pin Cushion Sewing Project

What you need:

Normal paper



Assorted patterned Liberty fabric strips 5-6” long/1” inch wide

4 solid fabric strips (5-6” long/1” wide)

Fabric square 5-6” for the backing of the pin cushion

Your preferred filling (toy filling or rice)


Cut out 4 paper squares of 3×3 ”

Place your solid fabric strip across the diagonal of the first fabric square. I use a little glue to keep it in place.

Place your first patterned fabric, right side down, on top of the solid strip and sew with a ¼” seam allowance along the aligned edge right through the paper. It is very important that you reduce the stitch length to 1.5 for this as it creates a perforation on the paper, which helps to tear it off later.

Then iron open. You could finger press instead of ironing but ironing does produce the more accurate result.

How to make a pincushion with Judith Dahmen

Repeat the process with the second strip and keep doing so until you have the entire paper square covered.

How to make a pincushion with Judith Dahmen

Flip the square over and trim the excess fabric along the paper edges.

How to make a pincushion with Judith Dahmen

Repeat for the other 3 squares and arrange them so that the solid strips form a square within the square and sew the pieces together with the paper still attached. Once sewn together peel the paper off.

To finish the pincushion put the fabric square for the backing right sides together with the front and sew all around with a ¼ “ seam allowance (with normal stitch length) leaving a small opening in the middle of one side. Clip the corners, turn around, poke out the corners with a pointy non-sharp object such as a chopstick and fill the cushion with your preferred filling. I use rice mixed with lavender because I like my pincushion to be heavy and above all fragrant! The last step is to close the opening with a few hand stitches.

How to make a pincushion with Judith Dahmen

The method can be used for any size block you wish to make and would look great as a 9” block repeated for a quilt.

Follow Judith @needlesandlemon on Twitter.

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